Fire Safety in Health Care Facilities

Major fires in healthcare facilities are rare but can be deadly.

Most patients cannot leave the fire area without assistance.

Stop a Fire from Spreading

Healthcare facilities are divided into "smoke compartments" – areas that can be closed off by "smoke barrier doors" to prevent the spread of fire and smoke.

Know the layout of the smoke compartments and the location of the smoke barrier doors on the floor where you are working.

If there’s a fire in your area…

Alert all staff. Call out your facility’s code phrase and announce where the fire is.

The staff member closet to the manual fire alarm station should sound it as soon as he or she hears the code phrase.

Evacuate patients who are in immediate danger.

Close doors to slow the spread of fire and smoke as you move patients out of the fire area.

Try to control or put out the fire using a portable fire extinguisher.

Unless the fire can be extinguished completely, evacuate your smoke compartment, checking all rooms and bathrooms to be sure no patients have been left in danger, and closing all doors as you leave.

Throughout the emergency, reassure and calm patients.

Fight the fire or evacuate?

There are no foolproof rules, but here are some guidelines.

IF THE FIRE IS SMALL and can be contained and extinguished quickly, you may not need to evacuate the smoke compartment.

Use a portable fire extinguisher only if the fire is small and can be brought under control.

If the fire is large or spreading, close the door to the fire area and leave.

Once you’ve contained the fire behind closed doors, do not try to go back in to fight the fire. IF A FIRE HAS BEEN ISOLATED but not extinguished, evacuate the smoke compartment.

Close doors as you evacuate areas to prevent the spread of fire and toxic gases.

Non-ambulatory patients can be moved by sliding them along the floor on blankets or sheets, or in wheelchairs, or on gurneys or stretchers.

Horizontal evacuation: Moving patients from one smoke compartment to another on the same floor is more efficient than evacuating patients to other levels.

Vertical evacuation: Moving patients to other floors is a last resort. Do it only if fire and smoke prevent horizontal movement. Use stairwells, not elevators, or follow fire fighters’ directions.

You should know…

Your part in your facility’s evacuation plan.

Your facility’s fire safety plan.

The code phrase for fire, so you can alert staff.

The location of fire alarms.

The location of portable fire extinguishers.

How and when to fight a small fire.

How and when to shut off oxygen and other equipment.